Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Mother of the Bride (7)

There are some loose ends to tie up. Traditionally, the MotB would have spent the days after the wedding sending out small portions of wedding cake by post and sitting at her bureau writing notes of thanks to the guests. The modern MotB has other preoccupations; focusing back at work, catching up on e-mails and updating her blog. Here is the poem I wrote and read as part of the ceremony. To fully understand the references, it's necessary to know that the groom is a designer who provides the graphics behind performers on stage. The bride is a town planner.

From the Start

Her first day, a new year, born to snow on mountains,
In the next crib a child called ‘One Owl’.

Then, she reaches out her small hand for a cherry.
There is an unseen friend; musical notes and stories
spin towards the spaces where we live.

His first day, born into falling leaves and a burnished sky.
Days filled with lego and alien wars, fights between brothers.
Now he creates new worlds, a stage for different stars.

Their paths, so diverse, came to this first day.
She is only just more beautiful than the day of her birth,
He, a grown man with soft eyes and a gentle smile

A marriage on a day in spring, you reach out in joy and hope.
Today, a new start for your new love.

Morag Gornall
April 2011

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Mother of the Bride (6)

I'm rather fond of Hitchin. Any small town that can produce a pink bra in my size at 9.15 am on a Saturday morning is worth a visit. I felt as if I were in Europe; the sun shone on the square, cafe owners were laying out their tables and chairs, there was a market and an ancient church. But I wasn't on holiday, it was my daughter's wedding day and the bra-hunt plus dragging my husband away from further work on his speech made us late arriving in Royston for the hair and make-up session. It is every bride's privilege to be nervous and stressed. It is a parent's duty to protect their daughter from stress On Her Wedding Day. Enough said.
To avoid any further parent-induced anxiety, The Bride and her father set off too early for the wedding and spent half an hour waiting in a lay-by in the Rolls Royce, while the rest of us, including the groom, gathered in hushed anticipation at Hitchin Priory Hotel for her imminent arrival.
The magic of a wedding is the suspension of belief, when a young woman who only hours before wore jeans, appears in front of her friends and family like a vision from an Edwardian watercolour. As she walked down the aisle my heart ended up in my throat. I found the honest words of the civil ceremony powerful.
Once the wedding ceremony was over, the rest of the day wound down through various stages of relaxation. After the photographs, most of the guests could relax. After the speeches, the key players could relax, once the first dance was over, The Bride and her new husband could finally relax. At the end of the day, when we released magic lanterns, everyone was relaxed, tired and possibly somewhat 'emotional'.
The Bride's father's speech showed the effort he had made but there was a moment of panic when after ten minutes he had only spoken of her first year. The guests exchanged anxious, sideways glances; there were thirty years still to be covered. Luckily, his precis skills redeemed the intervening period.
My favourite moments were a speech by The Bride, where she included a poem by Joyce Grenfell which I will try to post on my next blog, my first glass of champagne and watching my husband produce her baby wellington boots from his pocket. I loved the sunshine, the green parkland, the spring flowers and embraced her four grandparents who had faced a long and difficult journey to be there. The day was solemn, yet graced with humour; the couple walked back down the aisle to Abba's 'Waterloo' and their first dance was to the Eastenders theme tune. Like every MotB, I was filled with pride and joy for her, her new husband and their brothers and friends who cared for and supported them through the day. But like every MotB there was also a quiet moment of regret for the years that have passed.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Mother of the Bride (5)

I went out this morning without make-up, wishing for a Harry Potter cloak and casting envious glances at muslim sisters in their burka and niqab. I have worn a full make-up since I was twelve; every day using foundation, blusher and mascara. I don't know how I got away with it as girls were not allowed to wear make-up to school but I suspect the teachers stopped noticing. There was no such rule for the boys, since men and make-up were largely unheard of in rural Scotland before Boy George. I was surprised how quickly I forgot about my bare face and even went for coffee before my manicure and facial.
Touch is so important for emotional well-being. I felt as if threads of elastic linked the therapist's hands and my skin, particularly over the forehead and between the eyebrows, as she drew the tension away. Baby massage courses are now routine in Sure Start Children's Centres and the massage in schools programme is becoming established. I can imagine how massage would have gone down in the testosterone-fueled secondary school I attended, where girls were in the minority.
I love the professionalism of other people; how the condition of my hands and nails or the skin on my face can be the subject of detailed discussion, close-observation, frowning and note-taking. It feels like it matters. They are serious people, their jobs and training are important. Of course, I always leave with products because those are the tools of their trade and I'm impressed.
My husband disagrees. The woman who cleans our house every week likes to use a range of different cleaning materials; a specific, branded, bottle, tube or spray-can for each task. She can talk with enthusiasm about every one and scans the market to keep abreast of the latest developments. Left to him, she would be asked to use a small range of eco-friendly generic cleaners and he is probably right from an environmental perspective. But if she did this, I argue, she would be diminished. She would lose her sense of being a professional, with a unique set of skills and knowledge acquired over many years.
I have reached the weight I want to be, just in time. I'm afraid I have some sympathy with the anorexic prayer 'nothing tastes as good as slim feels' but there has never been any chance of my developing anorexia as I enjoy food too much and have the reverse self-image of an anorexic; I think I'm slimmer than I am.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Mother of the Bride (4)

Some towns unexpectedly become important. At one time I'd never heard of Kettering but my father worked in Northampton when I was in my late teens and I remember him saying the name with his Dundee accent, drilling down on the 'r's'. Ten years ago in Kettering I was trained in TEACCH (a framework for working with children with autism) by Gary Nesibov of the University of North Carolina. But Kettering is most often a blur, glimpsed from the high speed train from Leicester to London. If the train ever stops, the smell of roasted grain from the Weetabix factory drifts in through the open doors.
Kettering is half way between The Bride's home and Leicester, which explains its sudden significance. We met there on Sunday and the visit was poignant because the next time we meet will be her wedding day. She has decided to lose her maiden name, which would not come as a surprise to you if I was able to print it.
The garden centre we chose turned out to be little more than a shed in a field; a supermarket for ordinary plants and gifts which are a puzzle and disappointment once unwrapped. The MotB could not find anything to buy, not even a birthday card. Since we'll be regular visitors to Kettering I've trawled the internet for alternatives:
Kettering Park Hotel: a modern hotel with Spa...definitely.
Rushton Hall Hotel: an ancient hotel with Spa and afternoon tea served in the Great contest.
Triangular Lodge: built between 1593 and 1597. Symbolism reflects the number three (the Holy Trinity)...maybe later.
Wicksteed Family Theme Park...much, much later.
Naseby Battlefield (Civil War)...never.